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Family of man killed by Anaheim police sues city, calls for calm

July 24, 2012 |  3:03 pm

Anaheim police shooting
The mother of a man shot and killed by Anaheim police filed a civil-rights and wrongful-death lawsuit Tuesday against the Police Department and city alleging that her unarmed son was fired upon from behind and then,  when he fell to his knees, shot execution-style in the back of the head.

The FBI also announced Tuesday it would review Saturday's shooting after Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait called for both a state and federal investigation, in addition to the probe by the Orange County district attorney.

Manuel Diaz's mother and family filed the lawsuit in federal court, seeking $50 million.

They asked residents in Anaheim's heavily Latino core to refrain from violence. "This is wrong and needs to stop on both sides," his mother, Genevieve Huizar, said in a statement.

Anger from the shooting boiled over Saturday as the wounded man lay handcuffed on an apartment complex lawn as bystanders shouted at police to get Diaz medical aid. Protesters tossed bottles, and officers fired bean bags and projectiles.

Residents became even angrier when a police dog bit at least one person. Police later said the dog had accidentally escaped from a police car's open window.

The incident involving Diaz, 25, was the first of two fatal officer-involved shootings over the weekend in Anaheim.

He was shot by one of two officers who spotted him while driving down an alley in the 600 block of North Anna Drive. Diaz and two other men fled on foot, authorities said.

Anaheim Police Sgt. Bob Dunn said a single officer shot Diaz and a "gun was not recovered at the scene." But, Dunn, said officers reported Diaz tossed away items as he ran. One of those items was recovered, but it was not a gun.

The family attorney insists Diaz was targeted because of his race and was wrongfully shot.

"He was shot in the back of the leg area, brought to his knees before being shot in the head ... it was an execution-style shot," said attorney Diana Lopez. "There is no evidence of any kind of weapon. ... You can see the two officers walking around looking for something instead of attending to the young man who is near to his last breath," she said referring to a bystander's video that captured the post-shooting scene.

She said Diaz was left on the ground for too long without receiving medical attention. He died at a hospital a few hours after the shooting.

The family will also file a legal claim against the city, separate from the federal lawsuit, on Tuesday, Lopez said.

They contend the shooting is part of a pattern of abuse by Anaheim police against Latinos.

"There is a racial and economic component to this shooting," said Dana Douglas, another family attorney. "Police don’t roust white kids in affluent neighborhoods who are just having a conversation. And those kids have no reason to fear police. But young men with brown skin in poor neighborhoods do. They are targeted by police."

The shooting, the fifth fatal officer-involved killing in Anaheim this year, occurred in the heart of a sprawling but disparate city, which encompasses wealthy Anaheim Hills and cramped, heavily immigrant apartment complexes on Anna Drive, known for gang activity. Diaz himself has been identified as a gang member with a criminal history that includes carrying a gun at a school.

Anaheim Police Chief John Welter urged people to get all of the facts before jumping to conclusions, but defended his department's actions.

“From my opinion, my officers have the right to protect themselves and others," Welter said.

Latino activists have met with the mayor and encouraged the city to institute a civilian police review board.

"They've seen everything on TV — the dogs, the shootings and just a history of brutality," said Seferino Garcia, executive director of Solevar, an Anaheim community group. "Right now, the community is not going to stand idle. We have a job to do."


Anaheim chief 'very concerned' about uptick in police shootings

Activists to 'lay siege' on Anaheim City Hall after police killings

Latino leaders say Anaheim a 'powder keg' after police shootings

 -- Richard Winton

Photo: Jose Herrera mourns the loss of his friend Manuel Diaz, who was shot and killed by Anaheim police. Credit: Patrick T. Fallon/Los Angeles Times